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The Ever-Present, All-Powerful Ad Hominem: We Will Be Attacked

If you have done even the smallest amount of culture wars activities, you will know something with absolute assurance: you will be attacked, abused and vilified for making a public stand. It simply goes with the territory, and sadly we have to expect it.

Whether we are standing up for the institutions of marriage and family, or seeking to defend the unborn, etc, we will be attacked, insulted and abused. So we had better get used to it. It is simply the way it is in today’s harsh and hostile ideological, political, cultural and spiritual climate

When I teach Christian students on the basics of how to reason, how to think, how to assess, and how to use one’s mind for the glory of God, I of course always have to have a section on the various logical fallacies. We need to know how to argue and how to make our case – and how not to.

At the top of my list of fallacies is the ever-present ad hominem attack. This is Latin for ‘to the man’ or ‘to the person,’ and has to do with attacking the man you are debating with. Instead of making an argument and instead of responding to the argument of your opponent, you simply attack him.

Usually, this fallacy involves two steps. First, there is an attack against the character of the person making a claim or argument, and second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making or trying to present.

Of interest, one even finds this in the Bible. In fact, just this morning in my daily reading I came across an example of this. Consider Mark 6:1-6:

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Notice how even though they acknowledged his amazing teachings, they still tried to discredit him and demonise him, in part by mocking who he was and where he came from. They sought to dismiss his teachings by disparaging his person.

So there is nothing new about ad hominem attacks. Let me offer another example of this that just happened to me today. I had recently written an article on the sin of Sodom, rebutting the foolish and false notion that homosexuality had nothing to do with it:

A friend had shared my article on the social media, only to be quickly set upon by a critic. He wasted no time in attacking me and seeking to discredit everything I said – not by a careful refutation of my arguments, but by simply smearing my character and telling gross porkies about me. It went like this:

Critic: Who is Bill Muelenberg? Search him up. The Bible suggests that if you want to be a teacher for the church you need to be well known and of good standing within the church community. Who does Bill represent? Who vouched for him? Where did he train and what are his references?

Defender: Bill Muehlenberg is actually very well known in Christian circles, from what I have seen.

Critic: Which circles exactly? I was hoping that S**** B*** had posted an Australian perspective but wait it’s another White supremacist hater from the Southern States of the US. His arguments are incoherent and he has no formal association with a university or reputable Bible college.

And then, to top it all off, he offered “proof” of his assertions by posting the entry on me from the uber-hostile RationalWiki website, which is a militant misotheist site. It is filled with denunciations of Christians primarily by means of ad hominem attacks. You can see how they deal with me here if you dare:

The entry on me begins in this objective and fact-filled manner: “Bill Muehlenberg is an American-Australian Christian and homophobic/transphobic hate leader.” The rest of this attack piece is no better, But this is what we have come to expect from so many on the other side.

It has just one “external link” to me, and this website is also the epitome of balance, fairness and impartiality: “Bill Muehlenberg: Bullying and lying for Jesus: blog devoted to exposing Bill Muehlenberg as a Bigot, Christian fundamentalist and liar. This blog is to expose his vile campaign of hatred and lies against the LGBT community, atheists and Muslims.”

I always love it when my critics – and those who claim to be Christian critics as well – will completely ignore everything there is on and by me in cyberspace, including my own 4000 articles on CultureWatch, and resort to one or two obvious hate sites to dig up dirt on me.

But let me get back to this guy’s comments about me. Not only are they ugly, crude attacks on my person, but they are completely and utterly false! There is nothing at all true in his comments – nothing. Yet he somehow thinks he is making an argument and winning a debate!

As is usually the case with such folks, I did not bother trying to answer him. When you have that much hatred, animosity and bitterness, there is not much you can say to these guys. It is usually best just to pray for them. However, just for the record, let me clear up a few things here if I may:

-Um, I have lived in Australia longer than I lived in America. I have an Australian wife and three Australian children.

-How exactly am I a white supremacist? If I am, I sure seem to have a lot of non-white friends! (Indeed, one gal I caught up with recently interstate just wrote this: “Well of course…I could sense white supremacy written all over you when you gave me (of black African descent) a big friendly hug, and took the time to chat with my husband and I. The fact that we’re really looking forward to catching up again and inviting you into our home for dinner on your next visit is just further proof of how much of a white supremacist hater you are.”)

-From the southern states? Maybe this guy is as geographically illiterate as he is theologically illiterate. Last time I checked, Wisconsin was one of the northernmost states in America!

-I will let the reader decide just exactly whose arguments are incoherent. Indeed, only one person here has used any arguments, and it sure was not my angry critic!

-No formal association with a university or reputable Bible College? Really? So graduating with honours from Wheaton College (via the University of Wisconsin), and highest honours from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary means nothing? And lecturing at a number of Bible colleges in Melbourne means nothing either?

-Oh, and he does not even know how to spell my name. So I should pay serious attention to this guy? Really?

I have no idea who this guy is, but he seems to despise me big time, and is quite happy to tell one lie after another about me in the vain hope of discrediting everything I have said. But as mentioned, that does not an argument make. Simply throwing mud at a person and publicly abusing him is not how one makes one’s case.

That instead requires facts, evidence, logic, reason and truth. But it seems all these things are in very short supply from those on the other side, be they atheist, homosexual, or a “progressive Christian”. Thus this fellow is simply representative of so many.

Oh, and I should point out that one defender of mine did come along and refuted a number of his false claims about me. This critic then replied again. Was it to apologise, to acknowledge he was 100% wrong, to admit he was just up to his ears in ad hominem attacks? Um no, he simply kept on attacking me, ignoring the truth and heading off on another tangent.

But as mentioned, he is not unique. He is a dime a dozen. I experience this pretty much on a daily basis. Plenty of hate mail, plenty of abuse, plenty of false accusations, and plenty of vile slander. This is how the other side so often “argues”. Hey, it is a lot easier than rationally making a case with loads of evidence and documentation, and carefully crafted reasoning.

It is so much easier and quicker just to attack the person and mercilessly abuse him. I of course realise that people like this will not easily be reached. But the good things is, when these poisonous and diabolical attacks are posted in public for the whole world to see, that helps all those in the middle who may not yet have a firm position on things like homosexual marriage to make up their minds.

They can see so very plainly that all the hatred, abuse, bullying and thuggery is coming from one side. Indeed, many folks have already said that they were either uncommitted, or in the “Yes” camp, but after witnessing all the insults and attacks from the other side, they will now be voting “No” on the marriage plebiscite.

So all this hatred and poison serves a purpose I guess. It certainly is not fun to be on the receiving end of it all, but if it helps the cause of truth, then it is worthwhile putting up with it I guess. I will simply have to grin and bear it, and expect it on a regular basis.

So, I will pray for folks like this and hope that some of them will see the light, and by God’s grace turn their lives around. But even if they do not, we still must expect the attacks and the hatred. After all, Jesus received all this hate and abuse as well, and the servant is not above his master.

Stand strong my friends. And expect this only to get worse in the days ahead.

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